Anupam Gohain, Madhurya Borgohain, Abhinandan Goswami and Bithika Goswami are talents their colleges can be proud of. Students of the Guwahati-based North East College for Hearing Impaired, they have excelled at the global stage to prove to the Doubting Thomases that ‘disability’ is all about being specially abled. Focus, determination, and concentration in life are great levellers.
Anupam and Madhurya shone with their performances in a cricket league in Europe by securing India a third place. Abhinandan, a black belt, had represented India in Taekwondo in the Deaf Olympics held in Brazil after winning the gold medal in the qualifiers in Lucknow to get into the Indian team. He has to his credit the distinction of being the only hearing-impaired taekwondo player of the region.
Their college mate, Bithika Goswami, is a fifth semester student. She proved her mettle in solo acting, drama and dance at the all-India level while being a very good painter.
These are just a few names who have held aloft the college flag flying. But the list does not stop at these names alone. In 2016, Angela Lahoan won the Miss Deaf India 2016. She is now working in the same institution as a computer operator.
The College was established in 2009 under the aegis and effort of the Assam Association for the Deaf (AAD). More than 100 students are pursuing various courses here. There are six teachers and three interpreters. Besides, guest faculty from Gauhati University also take classes in this institution.
Bandita Dutta, a teacher in the Department of English of the college, says “Since sign language is like the mother tongue for these students who are hearing impaired, they are well within their rights to initiate any conversation in the sign language. It is important for all sections of the society to have some degree of understanding of sign language.” She, however, laments that there is an absence of an institutional mechanism in Assam where people can learn sign language. “Those who are keen on learning this have to go out of the State and learn. We have appealed to the Government through our College and the AAD on this.”
Secretary AAD and president of the All India Federation of the Deaf, Tapan Sarma, says that the College came up because of the unrelenting efforts of the Association. “There is an infrastructure issue, especially limited availability of land for the College. Yes, they have done extremely well in sports, and art and culture, but we owe more to them than basic facilities,” he confides to this reporter. (His intent and words were interpreted by Ankur Sarma for Asom Barta)
Alma mater of this institution have also managed to secure government jobs. “We want the Government to be vigilant on this. There are times when the undeserving ones scrape through and secure a job which is not meant for them,” Ankur laments.
“There are times when miscommunication happens when a hearing-impaired individual attempts to speak to any person. This is because not many people in society appreciate the importance of sign language. This also leads to many individuals demeaning the hearing impaired.”
He says that this was precisely the reason why they keep on organising sensitisation programmes from time to time. One of them being the week-long All India Conference of the Deaf which will be organised from May 15, 2023 in Assam.
Even the Samagra Sikha Abhiyan in Assam have been organising International Sign Language Day on September 23 each year since 2019 to create awareness. A Facebook Page “Nishabd” is the latest attempt by SSA to encourage people to learn Sign Language.